A native of Chianti, Tuscany, La Focaccia's chef and proprietor Joe Bitici brought a slice of the old country to his home in Summit, New Jersey, with this Tuscan-style trattoria. Though he moved to the States at the age of 14, Joe learned to cook beside his mother and grandmother, gleaning recipes for pasta and authentic sauce. These early lessons are on full display at La Focaccia, where housemade pastas bolster a menu that balances the conventional, such as linguine with white clam sauce, and the exotic, such as black spaghettini—a dish that blends squid-ink-darkened noodles with spicy sauce and seafood. Shrimp-and-truffle-oil risotto and marinated game hen headline the seafood and meat options, but guests are advised to try a variety of dishes—the eclectic menu gives a number of choices to the regulars who visit multiple times a week. Aside from the gelati, La Focaccia's desserts are also made in-house and include tiramisu and chocolate mousse. Populated with tables swathed in white linens, La Focaccia's dining room pairs minimalistic floral decor with a snug floor plan that enhances the neighborhood feel. Though the eatery does not serve its own adult beverages, guests are welcome to enjoy drinks from their own bottles or moonshine distilleries as they dine.
Mehrdad Zarrabikia and Azar Valoozi didn't know much English when they arrived in New Jersey. But they dreamed of opening a restaurant where they could prepare and serve the meaty stews, saffron-flecked rice dishes, and tart doogh yogurt drinks of their homeland, Iran. Mehrad worked at a gas station, Azar took a job at a nursery school, and each took eight years of English lessons, planning out their restaurant along the way. The hard work paid off: the duo were not only able to open up their own restaurant, but their Persian specialties have since received praise from The New York Times.
Visitors to Negeen Persian Grill can often spot Azar in the elegant dining room, where she greets guests and directs servers beneath the glow of colorful glass mosaic lights. Mehrdad can usually be found in the kitchen, whipping up the authentic stews and basmati rice dishes. The seasoned chef grills and stews lamb, veal, and chicken, seasoning meats in typical spices such as saffron and cumin. His dishes pair well with the restaurant's extensive selection of teas. They feature flavorful blends of exotic fruits such as mangos grown in tropical climates and strawberries raised on the eastern side of the moon.
On a Thai menu, you wouldn't expect the first two words under entrees to be "New Orleans." But Summit Thai Cuisine's cooks bridge the gap between Eastern and Western delicacies with a medley of mushrooms, baby corn, and a choice of protein doused in bayou-inspired oyster sauce.
For the most part, however, the culinary team sticks to traditional Thai flavors, from beef, pork, or shrimp cooked with ginger and Thai herbs to puff pastries stuffed with chicken and cumin. An entire section of Summit's menu is even dedicated to Thai-style duck, such as roasted mallard topped with housemade spicy chili sauce. A mock duck option is available for vegetarians, as are vegetables in red curry—a tasty alternative to eating from a garden watered with hot sauce.
Classic Northern Italian specialties such as black-ink tagliarini and veal scaloppini bring Fiorino Ristorante’s Renaissance-style fresco murals a bit closer to the 21st century. The menu features antipasti—try the almond-crusted calamari with saffron aioli—as well as pastas and artfully plated meat and seafood dishes. All pair well with varietals from the cellar and the dining room’s wine library. Chocolate Grand Marnier molten cake with hazelnut gelato and vanilla anglaise makes for sweet endings to meals, and the festive, singles-oriented bar is a good place to enjoy a postmeal cocktail with a date or a premeal drink with a likeminded drink coaster.